October 15, 2009

Halloween USA

You remember Circuit City?  The big box store that looked like Best Buy but the sales guys seemed more desperate?  The online Circuit City has been revived by some venture capitalists, but the big boxes remain empty shells.  Until this October that is; many of the old Circuit Cities around America have been converted into branches of temporary store Halloween USA, in preparation for the big day on October 31st.

Due to a dearth of good shopping in Costa Rica, and the need to replace many of our electronic items taken in the burglary, we went to Fort Lauderdale at the beginning of October to restock.  While driving along Federal Highway one, my son and I spotted a strange figure by the side of the road.  His pumpkin head glanced towards us, and his loose blowing black sleeves motioned for us to come in.  My 6 year old, who is usually a little hesitant about frightening things, said “Let’s go!”.

Driving into the parking lot, I kept hearing “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I can’t believe there’s a store with thousands of Halloween costumes.”  He was excited.  And the sign did say “Thousands of Halloween Costumes!”

Once we walked in, I had a strong Blink moment that this was going to go horribly wrong.  Within one second I surveyed 2 larger-than-life plastic dead-baby figures with moving heads and bleeding eyes.  At floor level of course.  The next second I noticed a very real-looking bleeding and cackling animatronic witch, all while hearing the scariest haunted house screams ever.

At that moment I looked back at my son, who tried to turn around at the Circuit City entrance-only automatic door, saying “No, this is bad, this is bad, let’s go, LET’S GO!”  Only the door did its job, not letting him out.

I grabbed his hand and said calmly “Let’s go to the exit, don’t worry kid.” At that point a female staff member in witch costume peeked out above some boxes and let out a creepy “Mou ha HA HA”.

“Please don’t do that. That’s not a good idea.” My son tried walking faster and squeezed my hand for dear life.

Staff member: “Tell him it’s not real. It’s just pretend”

I replied, “Ok, you tell him.”  She looked at me like I was being the smart-ass.

Meanwhile my son decided the exit path was too close to another animatronic bleeding witch figure so he took a detour.  Unfortunately he hit a dead baby cul-de-sac and I picked him up and took him outside trembling.  We walked by two other crying 5 year olds staring at the witch.

“How would you like to go to a boring store instead?” I quipped.

He looked at me relieved and said “Yes, that was the scariest store I’ve ever seen, let’s go to a boring one. Boring stores are really good.”

So we went to CompUSA and bought an SD Card for my camera.   It was boring.

My grumpy-old-man point today is a very simple one.  If young children (and their parents) form part 40-50% of your target, then don’t make kids almost wet their pants and want to leave when they first enter the store.  A gradual jack-o-lantern at the door…. to classic-witch-and-lots-of-costumes in the middle….  to scary-animatronic-witch further back…. to dead-baby-hidden-behind black doors retail journey is better.

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